Camp

2018 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 3 Recap

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We excitedly began this week of camp with the early arrival of many of the girls a half hour before schedule, at 9:30 instead of 10am, to which our coaches eagerly lead the group in a round of duck-duck goose, group stretches, and circle icebreaker games. Once all of the girls had arrived at 10am, our coach Rawda lined the girls up on the corner of a field. Five new girls had joined the camp from a small local organization in Zarq’a, and we welcomed them into the larger group. Rawda told them about the history of the camp and about who Nina was, and reminded all of the girls about how the camp began. After sharing Nina’s inspiring story, Rawda told the girls that they were smart, powerful, and shouted “What are we” and the girls replied “strong!” as loudly as they could. After the rousing discussion, Rawda lead the girls into 3 groups. Each group had a set of sprint exercises that they completed as a warm up using half of the soccer field. While two groups were sprinting, another two groups were sitting down and cheering on their peers. The groups were divided between the older and younger girls so that each was placed in an appropriate level with their peers.

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After this set of sprints, the girls were split into two larger groups and raced each other for full-field races, while other girls cheered them on. At the end of this exercise, all of the volunteers raced each other, while the girls cheered for each of us (especially “Rawda” and “Ms. Nicole”). After this, the girls practiced a distance warmup where they were split into 8 small groups, and ran between cones spread out across the field.  If one girl got tired, they could take a rest at the cone, and the team would run back and retrieve the camper before the coach blew her whistle.

Once the girls were all warmed up, we set them out to tackle their first full lap of the Nina Brekelmans race - as we are only two weeks from the final race!! The volunteers lead the girls in a long-distance run around Hussein Park on the exact path of the track, and cheered the girls on. The girls took several breaks along the way to ensure that all of the girls were focused and on track. When it started to rain lightly, the girls pushed through, receiving numerous high fives and words of encouragement from their coach and volunteers. One girl even said “Nina wouldn’t give up if it rained!”

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By the time they returned back to the soccer field, it was really pouring rain. Luckily, the Fulbright team had prepared tents with little chairs for them to sit in. The girls were able to stay dry and eat their fill of delicious shawarma, apples, and bananas. The girls happily ate and took a break before they moved to the northern building at Hussein Park where they sat in a classroom for their lecture by Coach Rawda.

Before she spoke, Rawda lead the girls in their weekly journal entry. This week, she told the girls about the personal qualities including determination, strength, kindness, and humility that Nina exemplified over the course of her life, and asked the girls to write down how they would try to exemplify these traits in their own lives. After this moment of reflection, the girls listened to Rawda tell her personal story about her work as a female sports coach at a local school in Amman. She then dove into the focus of her lecture, which was about nutrition and healthy eating. She asked the gave the girls examples of healthy meals that they had had, and wrote examples of foods on the board. She asked if these were healthy or unhealthy foods. The girls were able to take notes in their journals on the discussed material, and write out healthy meals to have this coming week that they had planned themselves. Before we knew it, the busses had arrived, and the volunteers high-fived the girls on their way out of the classroom after another successful week of camp! :)

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2018 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 2 Recap

By Nicole Khamis
Nicole Khamis is a Fulbright scholar in Amman Jordan, where she teaches English at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

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The second week of the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp in Amman, Jordan went off without a hitch as we welcomed the all 40 participants to continue learning and training! With the second week of training for the race underway, the girls were able to receive their shirts for the upcoming race, which they wore and will continue to wear throughout the camp. After receiving their new shirts, the participants of the camp got to business: short sprints, stretching, and light jogs were all in order to prepare for the upcoming race. Led by our all-female coaching team of Ru’a Al- Abweh and Rawda Hamadneh, the girls learned how to pace themselves while running, appropriate exercises for running, and the importance of continuing to work hard to achieve your goals. 

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In line with the mission of the camp, which aims to elevate and support females, our new mentorship program was inaugurated by the hard work of our volunteers who served as mentors to the participants of the camp. This launch of this program is thanks in large part to a grant that we received from the U.S. Embassy in Jordan. First, this mentorship program allowed the participants of the camp to get more individualized attention towards running and exercise by splitting up campers into small groups. In addition, during journaling time, girls would talk about goals they want to accomplish and the importance of running. Small group discussions were encouraged and led by volunteers. 

The camp ended with an great discussion led by Yasmin, a strength trainer in Amman who taught the girls strength training exercises to build muscle. 

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We look forward to continuing to empower girls through education and exercise, and are counting down the days to the race here in Amman! 

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Continuing Nina’s legacy: Getting Ready for 2018 Camp and Race

By Nicole Khamis
Nicole Khamis is part of this year's leadership team and teaching English in Amman, Jordan as a 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholar.

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The first time that my Jordan Fulbright cohort and I heard Nina Brekelman’s story was almost a year ago when we gathered together for the first time in Washington, D.C. The Fulbright Program is an international exchange opportunity for study and research that works to foster intercultural exchange and mutual understanding through different cultures. A key way that Fulbright achieves this is by sending individuals abroad who are passionate about doing this exact thing- and Nina was no exception. Her passing came shortly before she embarked on a Fulbright Fellowship in Jordan to research the experience of female distance runners.

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Nina’s legacy is inherent in the dream of William J. Fulbright, who established the Fulbright Scholarship after World War II to bring a divided world together. Her passion for learning about other cultures, engaging deeply with local communities in Mexico, Egypt, and Jordan, and her love for empowering marginalized communities, shined through in everything she did. Nina’s love for running, Arabic, and her infectious smile are still remembered by the many she worked with and impacted here in Jordan - and we are committed to continuing her legacy here in Amman by organizing the third annual camp and race for girls founded in Nina’s honor.

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The running camp, which will begin Saturday, will once again provide instruction on running training and techniques to young girls ages 8 to 14 to promote healthy living and self confidence. The experience will culminate May 5 at Sports City with a race in which the girls can show what they learned throughout the camp.  

We also are very excited this year to implement a girls leadership program that will give local girls an opportunity to mentor camp participants, and look forward to providing an update on this endeavor in the weeks ahead of us.

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Establishing a running camp in Jordan as a way to empower girls was a vision that Nina put forth for her Fulbright proposal. So, while the Fulbright Team based in Amman has been busy planning this year’s camp, Nina has been on our minds. Through the camp, we hope to empower and uplift other women in hopes of making a lasting impact on the lives of young girls in Jordan.

Announcing Year 3 Dates for the Nina Brekelmans Camp and Race for Girls

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We are excited to announce the dates for the third annual Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls and Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls in Amman, Jordan!

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The camp will be held on four consecutive Saturdays - April 7, April 14, April 21 and April 28 - at Sports City, Amman's premier urban park and athletic facility. The culminating event - a 3k race - will be held the following weekend, May 5, at Sports City.

The camp and race continues to grow with the support of Nina’s family and friends, the U.S. Fulbright program, and our Jordanian friends and partners - including Sports City, Unlimited Distances, Boost, Reclaimed Childhood, Jordan Squash Federation and Ruwaad. Together we strive to advance Nina’s vision to promote self-confidence, leadership, and well-being among young women in Jordan through running.

Camp participants can register here. If you would like to volunteer, you can register here. To follow along, sign up here for our mailing list. And if you’d like to help contribute to our growth, please consider donating. The Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Washington, DC. All donations are tax-deductible.

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2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 4 Recap

And just like that, week 4 of the Running Camp for Girls has come to a close! The girls continued to get ready for the Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls next Saturday, April 22 by starting their day with stretching and then running a three-kilometer run that mirrors the race course for next weekend. They also got to hear from Ms. Tamara Armoush, a Jordanian mid- and long-distance runner who placed first among females in the 10-kilometer race on Friday, April 14, along with many other inspiring women who taught them about eating healthy and keeping up with your studies. It was another wonderful day for the campers, coaches, and volunteers. Click below to read a full recap!

2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 3 Recap

Another week of training at Sport City in the books. The girls prepared for the upcoming Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls by continuously running or walking for a full 2k. The fantastic Dr. Dania S. Qaryouti delivered a presentation on healthy eating, which was a highlight of the day. The girls then enjoyed lunch and finished off the day with an activity led by volunteer Kelly Connors to visualize success at their upcoming race! Click below to read a full recap! 

2017 Running Camp for Girls: Coaches Spotlight

With the second annual Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls now in full swing, we want to introduce a few of the people in Amman who make it possible: Coaches Mohammad Al-Sweity, Batoul Arnaout, and Ibrahim Abu Asbeh.

Each of them knew Nina personally, and they have committed their time and energy to help the Foundation fulfill Nina’s mission of expanding opportunities for women in Jordan’s running community. Their combined experience as competitive athletes, coaches, and community leaders proved invaluable for our success in 2016, and we are thankful to partner with them again in 2017.


Mohammad Al-Sweity

Mohammad Al-Sweity has been instrumental to building the camp. As our head coach, Mohammad Sweity plans the weekly training sessions and leads the girls through workouts. He shares instruction on proper running form, stretches, warm-ups, and cool-downs and gives the girls insights into the art of racing. Last year, Coach Sweity gave a poignant presentation on the spirit of running and racing, during which he shared stories about Nina and her time as an athlete in Jordan. When Nina was drafting her Fulbright proposal, she specifically cited Coach Sweity as partner to engage for her research, so we are so thankful to have him on board. In his free time, Coach Sweity is an esteemed ultra-distance runner in Jordan. 


Batoul Arnaout

Batoul Arnaout also joined us during the inaugural year and assisted with workouts, group activities, and event planning. As both a competitive athlete and the founder of a local organization that promotes sports in society, BOOST: Better Opportunities and Options for Sports Today, Coach Batoul is well-versed in overcoming the challenges that face young women in pursuing athletics in Jordan. This year, she talked with the girls about how running improves self-esteem, promotes a positive body image, and fosters strong and healthy relationships within the community. Batoul is an amazing and inspirational athlete, and we're similarly thrilled to have her support. 


Ibrahim Abu Asbeh

Last but not least, Ibrahim Abu Asbeh has worked closely with us since the beginning to transform our idea of a camp for girls into a reality. Coach Ibrahim was the catalyst for meetings between our Fulbright team and the leadership at Sports City, which helped us secure access to facilities for the athletes, obtain a sponsorship for lunches during the camp, and gain access to the Sports City running trails to host the race. In addition to helping us with the camp logistics, he also coaches the athletes during each of the practices. In 2016, Coach Ibrahim surprised us all by initiating a series of relay races that ended up being one of the most fun and memorable episodes from camp. He has poignantly spoken about his friendship with Nina at the camp, and we're so grateful to have his involvement. In addition to being a runner in his own right, Coach Ibrahim is also the General Secretary of the Jordanian Athletics Federation. 

Many thanks to Coaches Sweity, Batoul, and Ibrahim for the time and effort they are dedicating to the camp and race!

Notes from Amman: Gearing up for the 2017 Camp and Race

 The camp leadership team meets in Amman at Sport City to plan for this year's events. (L to R: Bishr Khasawneh, Lilly Frost, Lena Hamvas, Matthew Liston, Ibrahim Abu Asbeh, Batoul Arnaout, and Mohammad Al-Sweity).

The camp leadership team meets in Amman at Sport City to plan for this year's events. (L to R: Bishr Khasawneh, Lilly Frost, Lena Hamvas, Matthew Liston, Ibrahim Abu Asbeh, Batoul Arnaout, and Mohammad Al-Sweity).

By Lena Hamvas

Lena Hamvas is part of this year's leadership team and teaches English in Irbid, Jordan, as a 2016-2017 Fulbright scholar. 

Nina Brekelmans had a mission to improve running infrastructure for girls in Jordan and encourage healthy lifestyles through running, a mission we are determined to follow.

When a fourth grade student of mine heard about the running camp in class, she said, “Yes! I love running. Please, teacher, sign me up!”

When I asked teachers to announce the running camp in class to the girls, they lit up with excitement. One English teacher said, “Wow! That is such a good idea for girls in Jordan. This is wonderful because girls need to learn that they can do sports too, and the community needs more girls doing sports!”

There is a group of girls in Irbid, Jordan (1.5 hours north of Amman) who are taking English classes and heard about the running camp.  From these girls, 9 of 10 girls showed interest in running in the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp.  However, since they are far away from Amman and are not able to come to the camp each week, they have committed to practicing once a week in Irbid as a group with plans to join the girls in Amman for the race.

 Fulbright volunteers at the 2016 race

Fulbright volunteers at the 2016 race

 Campers with Batoul Arnaout, founder of BOOST and a favorite speaker and leader for the camp/race

Campers with Batoul Arnaout, founder of BOOST and a favorite speaker and leader for the camp/race

The local community is very excited about the running camp, and we are very excited to help build the infrastructure to make it all happen!

The Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls will have girls from many different neighborhoods. The girls range in age from  8-14 years old. A group of dedicated volunteers from the community at-large will help make the camp happen. The volunteers will be helping the girls with running practice and understanding the lessons given by guest speakers. We will have guest speakers who will speak about healthy lifestyles and about sports in the community and around the world. This year, the girls will have the chance to interact with runners from the United States who knew Nina Brekelmans. This is a good opportunity to exchange cultures through the love of sports.

After four weeks of camp, the girls will run in a race on April 22. This will give them a chance to use what they practiced during the camp and run in a real race. The camp and race will give the girls a chance to meet people in their communities who like to run and do sports. After the camp ends, we hope the girls will be inspired to continue doing sports in their community throughout the rest of the year.

Now Available - Nina Brekelmans Patches!

We are little more than three weeks away from kicking off the 2nd annual Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls on March 25, and cannot wait to welcome this year’s runners to camp!  

We are on track to achieve our goal of doubling the size of the camp. The Fulbright team is recruiting volunteers, and we’re putting together a great lineup of speakers, potentially even including Olympic runners (more on that to come!). Our coaches and host, Sports City, are preparing for another great camp, as are our many Jordanian friends and sponsors.

We also felt now was the perfect time for our supporters to join us keeping Nina’s spirit in our minds and hearts.

We just received a new order of the popular patches that were created for that very purpose. Nina’s friends and family frequently wear these patches while running or doing other activities in her memory. And if you already have one, consider buying one for someone else!

We think this is a powerful way to promote Nina’s vision to empower young women in Jordan. Plus, you can help us meet our goal to raise $1,500 to ensure our team has supplemental resources to provide our camp-goers and race participants with an exceptional experience. These funds will be used to defray camp costs for transportation and snacks as well as t-shirts, race bibs, and medals.

Buy one, or buy a bunch! You can get one for $12, 3 for $35, or 5 for $50. All proceeds from the patches directly support the camp and race.